Lime crème brûlée. The best of both worlds. On the one hand, the classic French dessert wonderfully famous for its crunchy burnt sugar top. On the other hand, the zesty tang of lime, a flavour you don’t expect. This crème brûlée with lime zest and juice is just like the classic dessert, plus one ingredient. A delicious flavour variation.
I’ve been wanting to get myself a cooking torch for a long while. For some reason, in Sweden that object is incredibly expensive. The funny thing is that I had bought myself one in Italy for a fraction of the price it has here, but I am unable to bring it over. Cooking torches are among the objects that are not allowed onboard a plane – neither in your carry-on, nor in your checked luggage.
I would really like to take the car down to Italy and back one day, but it’s such a long journey to set off on that flying always ends up being the easiest way. I had made it my resolution to bring back my cooking torch once I’d not travel by air. The moment has not come yet. What happened earlier was that I found myself with a voucher to use at a hardware store. Not being in need of anything else at the moment while also not wanting to lose the voucher’s value I ended up caving in and finally took the expensive torch home. That inaugurated crème brûlée season in my house!
How to make lime crème brûlée
Lime crème brûlée is made with only a handful of ingredients. While it’s not a complicated recipe, it does have some steps that need to be followed in order to succeed. Here is what you will need:
- Heavy cream and sugar are the base of crème brûlée. This is not a healthy dessert, so we are not going to cut back on the sugar or fats here.
- Egg yolks are used to thicken the custard that is the base of crème brûlée. The creamy custard is first prepared on the stovetop, then divided among ramekins and baked.
- Lime and vanilla are the flavourings that you add to this crème brûlée. Vanilla extract is widely found in regular crème brûlée recipes. Here we are pairing it with lemon juice and zest.
- Brown sugar is finally added to the top and melted with a cooking torch. I prefer coarse granulated cane sugar.
Making the lime custard
In a small saucepan combine the cream and sugar and set on the stove on medium heat. You want to heat it enough to dissolve the sugar but not to bring it to boiling temperature.
Aside, lightly whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Zest the lime, then proceed to squeeze the juice from half of it.
When the sugar has dissolved and the cream mixture is hot but not boiling, remove it from the heat. Whisking it continuously, pour in the whisked egg yolks in a slow stream. Be very careful not to let the yolks scramble in the warm cream: do that by stirring or whisking continuously.
After adding the yolks, pour in the lime juice and vanilla extract. Lastly, stir in the lime zest.
Baking the crème brûlée
Divide mixture into oven-safe ramekins and place the ramekins inside an oven dish that can fit them all together. Pour in hot water up to about 1 cm. Place oven dish in the preheated oven at 150°C (300°F) and bake for 1 hour.
Crème brûlée, being a baked custard basically, needs to be baked in a water bath. This is done for two reasons. First, to add moisture in the oven. Second, to distribute the heat more evenly and make sure that the eggs in the mixture will not separate.
It is very important that crème brûlée is baked in a hot water bath, so add hot water to the baking pan before placing it in the oven. Cold water would take some of the baking time just for the water to heat, while also taking longer time for the heat to be distributed within the mixture to the core.
The signature burnt sugar top
The classic burnt sugar crème brûlée top should be hard to the touch, meant to be cracked with the spoon before eating. This is the only part of crème brûlée that does not keep well. While you can store your lime crème brûlée in the fridge for up to 4 days, the final sugar crust needs to be done on the spot before serving.
Before proceeding with the signature crème brûlée finish you need to completely cool the crème brûlée and chill it in the fridge to completely let it set. Allow at least a couple of hours in the fridge before the next step, or even better make the lime crème brûlée ahead, keep it in the fridge, and fix the burnt sugar just before seving. There’s nothing nicer than the contrast between the hot burned sugar top and the cold lime creamy dessert.
Pour 1/2 tsp of granulated brown sugar over each crème brûlée and tilt the ramekin in all directions to evenly distribute the sugar all over the surface. Caramelize the brown sugar using a cooking torch or by placing the crème brûlée in the top part of the oven set on broil. The sugar should caramelize and give out a hint of a burned taste. Make sure to stop torching (or remove the dessert from the oven) before it gets too bitter. It should take less than a minute with the torch and just a few minutes in the oven.
Remember that since we’re caramelizing the sugar just before serving this dessert, the ramekin will be hot. Melting the sugar in the oven the whole ramekin will get hot. When using the torch it will only be the sides just directly around the sugar to be hot, while the bottom will stay cold from the crème brûlée. Make sure to inform the people you’re sharing this with to avoid incidents.
Zesty and refreshing, this lime crème brûlée pairs really well with a cup of light roast coffee. You can also add a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream on top – it will slightly melt against the hot sugar.
Lime creme brulee
A variation of the classic French crème brûlée, this lime crème brûlée has lime juice and zest added to the mixture. Perfectly finished with its burnt sugar crust, the zesty lime flavour is a refreshing addition.
- 250 ml heavy cream
- 70 g sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 lime, zested and half juiced
- 2 tsp cane sugar
In a small saucepan combine the heavy cream and 70 g of sugar and set on medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and remove from the heat just before it reaches boiling temperature.
Aside, whisk the egg yolks and constantly mixing pour into hot cream mixture being very careful to add the yolks in a slow stream and preventing them to scramble. Always whisking, add the vanilla extract and the juice of half the lime. Lastly, stir in the lime zest.
Divide mixture between ramekins and place in a double bath in an oven dish. To avoid lowering the oven temperature, I recommend adding hot water to the double bath. Bake in the preheated oven at 150°C (300°F) for 1 hour.
Take baked custards out of the oven and let cool completely before making the burnt sugar top. If possible, store the dessert in the fridge overnight. To make burnt sugar topping, add 1/2 tsp of cane sugar and tilt the ramekin to distribute the sugar all over the surface of the cream dessert. Burn the sugar with a cooking torch until dissolved and hardened. Serve immediately.
Leave the top sugar burning as the latest step to make before serving. While you can make this dessert ahead of time (it is actually preferred to let it set in the fridge for some time), take care of the sugar burning only when the creme brulee is about to be served.